There were no surprises in the Cincinnati School Board elections Tuesday night; incumbents Eve Bolton and A. Chris Nelms held their seats and newcomer Alex Kuhns also won a spot on the board. The Hamilton County Democratic Party had stumped for the trio as a bloc and their names were the most familiar to voters.
In the unofficial Election Night results, Bolton was the top vote-getter, with 42,910 votes (32.46 percent); Nelms won 36,381 votes (27.52 percent) and Kuhns brought in 29,082 votes (22 percent).
Conservative challenger Mary Welsh Schlueter, who was endorsed by a number of prominent, local Republicans but, interestingly, not the local Republican Party, lost. Schlueter had 23,833 votes (18.03 percent), putting her in last place.
Despite her personal victory, Bolton describes the election results, which also included the failure of a critical Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) levy, “devastating.” She wasn't surprised by the levy's failure. Dealing with the levy's loss and a looming $30 million deficit are at the top of her agenda for 2012.
“We knew it was an outside chance — lose by 10 (percent) or win by 1,” Bolton said. “Without the support of the NAACP or the business community, it was a long shot.”
Bolton was hopeful that voters coming out to repeal Senate Bill No. 5 would help the cause, but it wasn't enough. Managing the deficit now will, in some manner, involve personnel, “whether that's layoffs or not filling the positions that were vacated.”
“Whether you lay off or don't fill positions, you still have a direct impact on instruction,” she adds. “The reality is it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to make the cuts we need without making cuts to instruction. It's a devastating vote for us.”
Meanwhile, Kuhns' election brings a new face to the board. In contrast to the difficult issues he'll face as a board member, his Election Night party was filled with smiles and hopeful constituents. Kuhns celebrated at Northside Tavern with dozens of friends and campaign workers. Those we spoke to offered that Kuhns struck them as genuine and committed to the cause of education. The thirty-something will be the youngest face on the board and is said to carry some hipster cred.
“I don't think I am that hip,” Kuhns says haltingly.
Kuhns would like to get involved in reforming the CPS curriculum to include Multiple Intelligence Theory, which respects not just I.Q., but spacial, emotional and musical intelligences. Also, he wants to narrow the gulf between CPS magnet schools and neighborhood schools.
“A lot of time neighborhood schools get ignored,” he says. “We need to bring neighborhood schools up to the same level as magnet schools.”